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System Builder Marathon Q3 2015: Prosumer PC

Final Word

Cheaper components usually offer more performance-per-dollar than high-end parts, simply because companies know that customers who can afford to pay a premium for performance can easily be pressured into paying a slightly higher premium. Yet today’s $800 build isn’t balanced for overall performance, instead using a relatively expensive CPU to assure adequate performance in a few professional apps. Shortfalls, such as the low memory capacity and mechanical hard drive, caused the less-expensive work system to under-perform the previous gaming machine in other work-oriented applications.

Even with the performance imbalance, the $800 work PC offered more performance-per-dollar than either of its predecessors. What’s more, the cheaper a machine is the more its value score is harmed by the price of non-performance expenses, such as the operating system.

Removing the operating system from build cost pushes the $800 even higher on the performance-per-dollar chart. This is closer to reality for me, since I’ve always been able to find a cheap way to get an OS license.

One of our former SBM participants asked about a value chart that didn’t include the case, rationalizing that the high-end builder shouldn’t be penalized into selecting a cheap case for an expensive system. I added secondary storage. The previous $1600 machines had secondary storage, the $800 build doesn’t, so that the previous builds are able to claw back part of their losses here.

The same former builder also wanted to answer questions about gaming-specific builds with a gaming-specific chart targeting the high-end. This is where a cheap CPU and expensive GPU pay off, and the $1600 gaming PC shines.

The $800 build scores better value in the overall performance charts, losing only in the game-specific chart, yet it’s not the machine I’d build for $800. To begin with, I already have a spare license laying around that cost me $20. I also have spare cases. I even have a spare case from a blown computer with a license key attached.

I’d put any money saved on the OS and case towards memory (16GB) and SSD (256GB) upgrades. I don’t’ need a terabyte drive, I have external storage for that, and I don’t even need a DVD drive since I have an external portable unit laying around. Then again, if I wasn't trying so hard to include Skylake, I could have saved $50 on the motherboard and another $10 on the CPU by going with the Core i7-4690K. That's exactly enough to pay for both upgrades, without all the finagling, yet I'd hardly expect this level of overclocking from the more-power-hungry CPU on a cheaper motherboard.

If you’re starting from scratch and don’t know how to find a cheap Windows license, the $800 PC isn’t a bad machine to use. Middling performance, moderate quietness and mind blowing efficiency are a great combination at this price.

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Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware, covering Cases, Cooling, Memory and Motherboards. Follow him on Twitter.

Follow Tom's Hardware on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • Blueberries
    What is a prosumer and why is there no SSD?
    Reply
  • RedJaron
    You fit in a Skylake CPU? Bravo, sir!

    16700788 said:
    What is a prosumer
    A portmanteau combining "Professional" and "Consumer" usually describing the type of person that gets paid for a hobby. Someone who has requirements beyond that of the typical consumer, but not so high as a dedicated professional.

    16700788 said:
    and why is there no SSD?
    Read the whole article. It's explained there.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    16700796 said:
    You fit in a Skylake CPU? Bravo, sir!

    16700788 said:
    What is a prosumer
    A portmanteau combining "Professional" and "Consumer" usually describing the type of person that gets paid for a hobby. Someone who has requirements beyond that of the typical consumer, but not so high as a dedicated professional.

    16700788 said:
    and why is there no SSD?
    Read the whole article. It's explained there.

    Wow, and you pulled out portmanteau? Bravo to you, sir! And to everyone in the stadium, welcome to the first onstage meeting of Tom's Hardware Mutual Admiration Society.
    Reply
  • chalabam
    Any money spend in a DVD burner is money wasted.

    You shouldn't buy a DVD burner until you actually need it.

    Most software is either downloadable, or stored on HD, or capable of being copied to a USB stick.
    Reply
  • Neat-O man
    There should be a bargain prosumer that hits all the check marks. I built a FX-8320e @4.5Ghz (very small voltage bump, max 54c after two hours of prime95) with a Cooler Master HYPER T4, 16GB ddr3 1866 cas 9, 850 EVO 250GB ssd, TWO Toshiba 2TB drives in soft RAID-1 (smart UPS is a must in that case), EVGA 430 watt PSU, 750 Ti (over clocks like a monster), and last... Cooler Master Silencio 352. $800 with tax (before OS). It is used for simple Photoshop and business things, honestly... over kill

    Yeah, even with AMD CPU lol... but holy carp was i surprised when i overclocked the FX-8320e compared to a FX-8320 i did three years ago when it came out. Runs super cool and stable for an AMD chip.
    Reply
  • Neat-O man
    16700962 said:
    Any money spend in a DVD burner is money wasted.

    You shouldn't buy a DVD burner until you actually need it.

    Most software is either downloadable, or stored on HD, or capable of being copied to a USB stick.

    That's true.. ish. What if you have some specialized software that you can't find anymore and you only have the CD/DVD that you forgot to transfer to pure digital... than a $15 investment isn't such a bad idea. And a well stored CD/DVD that you did NOT make yourself (pressed in a factory) or M-Disc will outlast most HDD/SSD drives because of bit rot, unless you have a good ZFS setup and swap out the drives when necessary.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    16700962 said:
    Any money spend in a DVD burner is money wasted.

    You shouldn't buy a DVD burner until you actually need it.

    Most software is either downloadable, or stored on HD, or capable of being copied to a USB stick.
    Not for most people using this for their first build. The winner might even be in that position, as stated in the article.

    Please don't let those annoying facts get in the way of your eloquently-expressed opinion :)

    On the other hand, we'll probably make the switch to Win10 in Q1, so you don't have to tolerate this measure of practicality much longer.
    Reply
  • daveys93
    16700962 said:
    Any money spend in a DVD burner is money wasted.

    You shouldn't buy a DVD burner until you actually need it.

    Most software is either downloadable, or stored on HD, or capable of being copied to a USB stick.
    Not for most people using this for their first build. The winner might even be in that position, as stated in the article.

    Please don't let those annoying facts get in the way of your eloquently-expressed opinion :)

    On the other hand, we'll probably make the switch to Win10 in Q1, so you don't have to tolerate this measure of practicality much longer.

    Windows 8.1 can be downloaded to a USB drive right from the Microsoft website:

    http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/create-reset-refresh-media

    If you obtained one of those "cheap Windows license" codes that was mentioned in the article for the lucky recipients of these machines and included it with Windows 8.1 on a cheap 4GB USB drive (if you are thrifty these can be obtained for $2 or less), you could forgo the antiquated optical drive, allowing this rounds builders to use the hardware and cases they really wanted. It would also free up some budget space since "cheap Windows license" codes are ~ $25 - $50.
    Reply
  • SCREAM2NIGHT
    16700962 said:
    Any money spend in a DVD burner is money wasted.

    You shouldn't buy a DVD burner until you actually need it.

    Most software is either downloadable, or stored on HD, or capable of being copied to a USB stick.
    Not for most people using this for their first build. The winner might even be in that position, as stated in the article.

    Please don't let those annoying facts get in the way of your eloquently-expressed opinion :)

    On the other hand, we'll probably make the switch to Win10 in Q1, so you don't have to tolerate this measure of practicality much longer.

    I use my DVD drive to play older games.
    Reply
  • ykki
    This is a really nice build. You stuck to a strong processor, din't go overkill on the gpu and got a "sufficient" psu.

    Also Tom's for q4 can we get a limited budget "no holds barred" where the contestants can do anything to anything to win. Threr sould be no constraints like what parts have to be compulsory (like this quarter's ODD). How 'bout it?
    Reply